The joint venture that runs the Chinese locations of iconic Canadian coffee shop chain Tim Hortons is nearing a deal to go public through a merger with blank-check company Silver Crest Acquisition Corp., people familiar with the matter said.

A transaction could value the combined entity at about US$1.8 billion and an announcement could come as early as this week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

Silver Crest Acquisition, led by chairman Leon Meng, is a U.S.-listed special purpose acquisition company backed by Greater China-focused private equity firm Ascendent Capital Partners. Shares of Silver Crest Acquisition gained 1 per cent to US$9.74 as of 11:13 a.m. Thursday in New York.

Co-founded by hockey player Tim Horton, who opened the first Tim’s location in 1964, the coffee chain spread across Canada and became a national symbol, though it remained little-known elsewhere. An US$11 billion takeover in 2014 saw Tim’s absorbed into newly-formed conglomerate Restaurant Brands International Inc., alongside quick-service brands Burger King and, since 2017, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

There are more than 4,900 restaurants globally under the Tim’s brand, according to RBI’s website. Shares of RBI fell 0.2 per cent in New York trading Thursday.

Tim Hortons China, a joint venture between private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group and a subsidiary of RBI, said in a statement in March that it had completed a funding round led by Sequoia Capital China and existing investor Tencent Holdings Ltd., and with participation from Eastern Bell Capital.

The Chinese master franchise holder opened its first outlet in the country in 2019, and has more than 150 shops across 10 cities in the country. It aims to expand to more than 1,500 Chinese outlets.

Silver Crest raised US$345 million in a January initial public offering and said it was seeking a target in the high-growth consumer and consumer technology sectors. It counts veteran banker Christopher Lawrence as vice chairman and Ascendent’s Derek Cheung as chief executive officer.

As with all deals that aren’t finalized, it’s possible terms change or that talks fall apart. Representatives for Silver Crest and Ascendent didn’t respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for Cartesian Capital and Restaurant Brands International didn’t respond to requests for comment made outside normal business hours.